Sunday, April 29, 2007

Paranoia about feeds

Hmm. Beleaguered at work these days and not inclined to write too much. Also not inclined to get around too much, but like to keep tabs on things occasionally. Something did catch my attention today on my comment feed (well two things, really, though the first one was just a curiosity thing – on the aggregator I use, you can’t tell who is saying what to whom). I clicked out off of the aggregated feed and the person owning the blog I was visiting wrote a lengthy post referring (in an unhappy way) to my visit. I wrote a long response, but he’s since packed up all his toys and gone home, I guess.

I’m not inclined to get into it too much unless he wants to discuss things here. So dude, the floor is yours if you want it (if you visit here)*.

In the mean time, (another) word about feebite: it’s an aggregator. You can use it in handy ways if you want to feed comments or posts from one place to another (for example, on wiki it’s used to aggregate comments from various contributor blogs onto a dummy blog, and then that’s fed back to wiki’s front page). Here, I’m using it if anyone wants to leave a comment on one of my posts and not have it show up on wiki (it also, FYI, has the advantage of having truly anonymous comments – no IP logging to match comments to). So far, nobody’s chosen to use it but me. (I’m thinking I’ll keep it there anyway, however, since Feedbite actually started allowing anonymous comments in response to something I’d said.).

If aggregators bother you, then you can easily toggle your feeds to the “off” position (Go to the “settings” section of your blog and hit the “site feed” tab). If you don’t like people reading what you’re saying without being able to see them (on an IP logger) but are ok if someone wants to include you in an aggregator (which is handy, if you don’t want to bother running off to check everybody’s blog individually to see if they’re saying anything), you can choose “short” feeds (first couple of lines). Then, people can there’s action, but to read the entire comment or post they have to click to your blog and you’ll see who’s reading. A number of wiki contributors have done this.

If people reading what you’re writing bothers you on this public and eminently accessible internet, then I don’t know what to tell you. It does make me wonder what it is you think you’re up to when you’re blogging, however.

Beyond that, I dunno what to say. If people want to be “sneaky” (and some do), they use an anonymous IP portal**. If I were inclined to be “sneaky”, then I wouldn’t bother clicking to someone’s page through the aggregated feed. I did “hide” it awhile back, though, when I found out (actually, someone else found out) they’re accessible through search engines. Now the feed is not. I am aware, however, that “hiding” doesn’t mean making something inaccessible (can be backtracked through the referring link).

All the above aside, relationships formed through online interaction are certainly interesting, no? So easy to take offense (and give it), when you’re not looking at the person you’re interacting with. This is the third time someone has reacted vehemently to having their blog on my (now hidden, accessed by no-one but me unless backtracked to) feedbite aggregator.

Is it paranoia, ignorance, or are feeds really offensive in some way I can’t fathom?

I’m inclined to write more about online relationships at some point, but only when I get a little more time. In the mean time, I kind’ve hope people have me on comment feed and will see I’ve posted. Otherwise, pretty much the only people visiting here are coming off a google image search (“Caribbean sunset”, if you’re curious), and I’m just muttering to myself. Again.

*Or email me and I’ll send it to you. [I’m one of those people who keep their email address accessible through their profile, you know?]

**Funny, those – even they can give some hints about the person visiting. For example, language can be listed “English, US” or “English, UK”. I was getting a lot of those latter ones for awhile, but they’ve dropped right off, which either means whomever was using it stopped visiting or they’re using an aggregator of their own (not like I really care).


Bite oftheweek said...

I don't think I understood any of that

TenaciousK said...

Hi Bite! Lemme try to be more concise.

1) Every blog sends it's posts and comment data out in two ways - the traditional way (you come see me, you read what's here), or by way of feeds (one for posts, one for comments). You can "subscribe" to feeds to see what people are saying without actually visiting their site.

2) There's a service that allows you to bundle many different feeds together and have them display on a single page for you - Feedbite. I have a bundle hidden away that combines posts and comments from many of my favorite blogs - keeps me from having to go visit them to see if they've written anything.

3) If I click out from that page, it takes me to that person's blog. The can tell where I came from (that bundle) if they check their sitemeter.

4) For the third time, some paranoid soul has divined I'm doing this, and freaked out. This particular fella' shut his blog down (he was also upset about some other things) and left. I was going to explain, but never got the chance.

5) I still think it's wierd that

a) people might be funny about someone else reading what they're writing when they're broadcasting it on the net,

b) that people even a little familiar with wikifray might somehow assume my private comment feed has anything at all to do with that (witness the legend of Ender?),

c) that somebody would be stupid enough to freak out without figuring out they can turn their feeds off, if they want.

I hope that helps. Not sure why I bother responding to people like this fella' - maybe I'm a little more tolerant of the obnoxiously paranoid than I oughtta' be.

Archaeopteryx said...

Hmmm...let me guess who the paranoid fella might

Bite oftheweek said...

Thanks tk

Arch: that's what I was thinking (smiley face)

TenaciousK said...

Arch and Bite: Nah, it's probably not who you're thinking of (a'nutter nutter).

Funny, though - one of my first exposures to the blogging world took the form of discovering some Fray conversations I'd had were posted elsewhere (with some unflattering commentary about the other participant). It pissed me off, but when I tried to respond, I quickly learned about the "comment moderation" option (none of my responses were ever posted). This struck me as rather rude. Still does, really - if someone is going to go to the trouble of badmouthing someone, it strikes me as the barest form of "etiquette" to allow a response.

What this person is objecting to is apparently my reading his blog (seeing as how it's feeding to a hidden bundle). Since he's not inclined to respond here (or on the feebite feed, or by email) but prefers to lob little stones from elsewhere (without option of response), I'm not really inclined to identify him. It's too reminiscent of bad behavior elsewhere, to be making accusations or casting aspersions in a place where the target won't respond.

So, a'nutter blogger bites the dust. Angels are weeping somewhere, I'm sure.

Does bring up all kinds of thoughts about online relationships/interactions, though. Gypsy's cat is probably dying, and I'm very sad. Iso's son died, and I'm very sad. One of my "friends" started deleting all my comments awhile back whilst making derogatory statements about me and, well, it bothered me. I felt sort of betrayed.

Stupid of me to allow myself to get provoked, though (Sorry, Twif). It's frustrating when you don't want to sink to the same level of the people casting stones at you, but are unable to respond (much, anyway) unless you do.

Online intimacy is a truly novel experience - I'm thinking lots of people end up feeling close to each other here that might not, had they met IRL (Gregor said something about this, recently). OTOH, I also have ample and compelling reasons to believe that sometimes online relationships are every bit what they seem. So, it's worth speculating about (for me).

But enough of that for today - I've things to attend to, and if none of the nutters are inclined to say anything about it, I guess that's the end of it.

I would like to note, though - the only comments I have ever deleted were mistakes of mine, one outright spam, and one in which information was revealed I preferred not be (but I posted an almost identical replacement instead). I guess I can imagine other situations where I'd feel compelled to delete comments, but am thinking any offense would have to be pretty egregious.

So, whatever ill behavior I'm guilty of, I've not ever deprived anyone of their voice. Doing so violates blogger etiquette, I think. Whatever that is.

PS. So, do you'all think having your blog feeds aggregated for me is rude? I never asked anybody's permission, but I never asked anyone's permission to read their blog, either - I figure that's safely implied, when you post in public.

But I'm open to other perspectives, also on related issues like IP tracking. Is it rude to track someone's IP? Is it rude to post someone's IP address? What about the reverse (using an anonymous IP)?

Just trying to understand the bounds of etiquette, because I clearly have a very different impression of what constitutes appropriate behavior than some of the other people around.

Anonymous said...

[i love love love get fuzzy]

i had trouble commenting here with the new anonymous feedbite, even after you tested it and found it worked for you. but then, i haven't been getting out and about much either, so while it would be fun to figure it out [why does it hate me and like you?], i really haven't cared enough recently to try.

Archaeopteryx said...

I really don't get the whole I'm-posting-my-crap-on-the-internets-but-don't-want-you-to-read-it-or-comment-on-it deal. Why post it at all if you don't want feedback? I understand all us bloggers are egotistical, and like positive feedback, but if we want to improve, don't we need the other, too? Also, what's the point of all this internetting if not to engage people of different views? Remember the whole deal with Nan? Remember how much fun that was?

As far as tracking IP numbers--Sitemeter is cool. There are a few numbers/locations of people I recognize as regulars. I know who some are, and some I have no idea. Why does somebody in India keep looking at my blog? Finland, for Christ sakes? But many of the folks are obviously my on-line friends, and I doubt they'd have any problem with me knowing they'd been about. And I have no problem with others knowing when I've been on their blogs.

Although, it kind of creeps me out that the government has all that information, too.

Anonymous said...

hmmmm.... coupla thoughts, likely incoherent ones....

have you ever been stalked? if not, you should get someone who has to tell you about it.

so, accidentally stumbling over the fact that someone has been watching you, collecting information about you, making this information about you more widely known than it was before... certainly not as bad as being stalked, but still, it's just kinda creepy to be an unknowing object of someone's attention. especially targeted attention, even when that attention is copmpletely benign, and even when you're intentionally putting yourself out there in the limelight in the first place.

some dialogs:

i'm watching you and i'm not telling you about it.
um, ok. i guess.

i'm making it easier for other people to watch you too, and none of us are going to tell you about it.

it didn't dawn on me to stop to think that this might bother you. i'm sorry.
well, ok.

but it doesn't bother other people to have this happen to them, so you're stupid for letting it bother you.

is it rude to collect ip address?

i've been stewing over this for some time now. i just deleted my sitemeter account. it's nice knowing who visits and how often. even when they don't leave a comment, you know they've dropped by. warm fuzzies, lots of warm fuzzies.

data mining, though, is getting more and more sophisticated, and the number [and types] of people who want to mine data, and the amount and types of information about you that they want or feel entitled to] is increasing. is this rude? i find it scary, and i've decided i want to try to participate in it [even inadvertently] less and less.

is it rude to publish ip adresses?

i don't know enough about hacking into computers to know this for sure, but i was under the impression that knowing someone's ip number makes it easier to hack their computer. if you publish my ip number and someone drops by your site, decides they don't like me, whammo! they now know where to go to either crash my computer or try to get into my files.

is it rude to use a fake ip number?

sounds more like "prudent" rather than "rude" or even "paranoid," if you ask me.

on paranoia in cyberspace, a question for you: would it bother you if i published your name and address [how about your social security number?] on my blog and connected it to all your online presences? sure, i only have a handful of readers, and you probably know all of them already, but what if i had hundreds of readers?

i don't know your name and address, i'm not going to go hunting them down, and if i did know this about you, i would never publish it. but it's becoming ridiculously easy to hunt down real-life personal information about anyone. if i were to gather all the clues about most of the online personas i know well, and put them together intelligently, i could probably make some pretty good educated guesses about who some of these people are irl. i repsect your right to be as anonymous in cyberspace as you wish, but not everybody is going to.

TenaciousK said...

Thanks for commenting, anon. I have some responses.

have you ever been stalked?

No, I haven’t (to my knowledge). I have had intimate conversations with people who were in the process of being stalked (not online).

so, accidentally stumbling over the fact that someone has been watching you,

But there are people who read my blog and never, ever comment. How is this different? I never intended to hide who I was, which is why I don’t use either an anonymous IP, or hide where I’m coming from.

collecting information about you,

I wasn’t collecting any more information than you chose to publish, and it’s not like I’m doing anything with it, except reading it (when I have time – I tend to get behind and lose track of people).

making this information about you more widely known than it was before

But you see, I wasn’t making it known any more widely than it was before – it’s a private bundle. Nobody has access to it but me (unless they backtrack to it, but even then, comments roll off pretty quick – I’ve got like 20 or 30 feeds on the thing).

certainly not as bad as being stalked, but still, it's just kinda creepy to be an unknowing object of someone's attention. especially targeted attention, even when that attention is copmpletely benign, and even when you're intentionally putting yourself out there in the limelight in the first place.

I understand being surprised or distressed. Asking about it (or finding out about it from other sources) would be good. Mentioning it and then not even giving me a chance to explain? Not so good.

About your dialogues – I wasn’t making it any easier for anyone else to watch you. Confession – when I first started using feedbite, I didn’t realize the open bundles were search-engine accessible. So when Sleepy found the comment feed searching “Mardyke Park”, I was as shocked as her. I explained it when she asked, though, told her how to turn her feed off, and then “hid” the bundle. Now, the bundle really is inaccessible to people. [Note – if anyone else has been accessing it that I’m not aware of, I’d like to know. I don’t think other people can, but I guess it’s possible there’s something I don’t know about].

My point – the only difference between reading your blog from a feed and visiting is the lack of IP tracking. Frankly, I don’t see this as substantively different than all the anonymous IP’s that show up on my counter every day. I don’t know who they are either, and according to you, that’s not a bad thing. Hell, not that long ago I was castigated for visiting someone’s blog too often [note – there are two other wiki associates with the same provider and same location as mine. No idea if that had a bearing on it or not]. So while I’m sorry if you were distressed, I’d just like to mention – while I didn’t bother going out of my way to ask permission if I could read your blog, I also didn’t try to hide what I was doing [except in the sense I took a step to ensure I wasn’t disseminating your writing further than I intended].

I assume everyone I visit is using a stat counter of some kind. I don’t really care if someone collects my IP address. I do care if they install a cookie on my system.

It is nice knowing when people drop by [I like the warm fuzzies too]. However, if someone’s made it clear my presence isn’t appreciated, I figure I’m not doing anyone any favors by broadcasting I was there. What a lot of people have done is select short feeds – allows people to use aggregators, but makes them come around to see what’s actually being said. Sort of the best of both worlds, I think.

Well, someone published my IP last night, which strikes me as being quite a lot ruder than anything I did. The stat counter I always end up using doesn’t even collect the entire thing [sitemeter – I like their interface much better]. I should probably delete the others – I never use them anyway. It is nice to know where people are coming from [if you can tell, anyway].

I see using a fake IP as quite comparable to reading off a feed. So if you don’t object to the one, I have a hard time understanding why you’d object to the other.

Paranoia in cyberspace – labeled because malign intent was assumed, rather than a misunderstanding. I’m sure you know what that feels like – when something as simple as a disagreement is taken to mean you’re the antichrist himself. Give someone a chance to explain, and you provide an opportunity to correct a misunderstanding. Deprive them of that, and all you do is reinforce your own impression of nefarious motives. It’s the self-reinforcing aspect of it that defines paranoia.

But I may have been wrong – maybe this was just a misunderstanding after all.

TenaciousK said...

PS. Arch - for whatever it's worth, having worked as a federal employee for a time, I can assure you that the information overload alone ensures your continued online freedom from big brother's scrutiny. Stay off the child porn and "I'm gonna blow up the federal building*" sites [Hi Mr. Homeland Security person!] and you'll be fine.

*Humor, honest. Really. No please, do ya' really have to take those cuffs out? Can't we talk about this? We can? But does it have to be in Gitmo?

Anonymous said...

heya, arch! tk's right, you have nothing to fear from the guvmint. yet. that's still a cluster.

tk: raisng a stink then not giving you a chance to explain, I agree, bad form.

feeds. i played around with them a bit when i first heard of rss, but didn't get into it much. i'm a bit ignorant on the subject. lots of people have password-protected blogs, or use the nobots tag, etc, to limit access to their blogs. do feeds get around these measures?

even if feeds don't circumvent privacy measures, feedbite [and sitemeter and statcounter and google and ...] are all still aggregating data, storing it, and if they're not already analyzing it, they're planning to.

so far, these people only want to sell us useless stuff, or sell useless stuff to someone we connect to, so we're still just a bunch of tiny fish in a huge school and relatively safe from being individually noticed.

objections. i'm playing devil's advocate here, more than objecting. in almost all cases, i approve of anonymity, from all directions.

a delicious irony for you: i rail against the losses of privacy in our brave new world, and zealously defend others' anonymity even as i jealously guard what few shreds of my own anonymity that i still have. and then i get up and go to work everyday [in a government office] to collect information about my fellow citizens and publish it on the web so that their fellow citizens can find out more about them.

the inner conflict isn't doing me any good, but this is one of the few skills i have that people are still willing to pay a living wage for and i have pets to feed [warm fuzzies]. not to mention the warm fuzzies i get from doing work that i'm good at.

thanks for the tip about short feeds, i'll have to go and check what i set my blogs to feed.

Anonymous said...

ps. snap is really annoying.

TenaciousK said...

Hi anon:
No, feeds don't get around password protected blogs. What's a "no bot"? Agree with what you're saying about data aggregation. Ask yourself what Google is positioning themselves for.

With enough data and resources, the opportunities for commercial manipulation (or other types of manipulation, actually) is nearly boundless. When I think about the quality of data being collected even by something as seemingly innocuous as a search engine, I shudder.

But it won't be the guv'mint who runs that little enterprise.

I'm undecided about snap. I think the way I set it up, you can toggle it off on the bottom of the front page (actually, I thought that was supposed to be default). But you're right, it is kind've irritating - I may just lose it.

hipparchia said...

if you don't want the search engines to index your site, you can use this html tag. my sieve-like brain can't remember to call it by a more accurate name, apparently.

i agree, the govt won't be running the data ming. they'll more likely sit back and wait for industry to perfect several varieties of then subpoena it, or perhaps just sweet-talk them into doing their patriotic duty like they did with sweet-talk them into doing their patriotic duty like thay did with first data.

of course, this likely won't happen till after our hearts and minds and our pocketbooks too have been well and truly plundered by the captains of industry.

i liked snap when i first discovered it, but recently i've found that even when the sites i vist provide a "disable" switch, i can't seem to turn it off. maybe it's just a browser-dependent thingy.

schmutzie said...

Probably just a misunderstanding.

I'm sure he's not obnoxious and paranoid.

Obnoxious or paranoid, sure.

But not both.

yeeeek said...

Hmmm, maybe TK is "the legend of Ender!"

errrp said...

p.s. your avatar in this comment section reminds me of Teddy's

yuvutu said...

I think you are a victim of your own paranoia.

(Anonymous Proxy)

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